BEACON FALLS — It didn’t matter to Woodland baseball coach Mike Kingsley that his Hawks entered Tuesday on a nine-game winning streak or that Naugatuck came to town with a sub-.500 record.
That’s because any time Woodland and Naugatuck meet on the diamond or the gridiron or anywhere else, it’s a big game.
The Hawks rose to the rivalry challenge Tuesday by topping the Greyhounds, 4-1, to boost their Naugatuck Valley League-best winning streak to 10 games.
“The game against Naugatuck is always a tough game,” Kingsley said. “You throw the records out when these two teams play because it’s Naugy-Woodland and everybody gets up for it. There’s a level of excitement to this game.”
Justin Butterworth, one of seemingly countless starting pitchers for the Hawks, tossed a complete-game six-hitter with five strikeouts to pace Woodland (11-2). Butterworth kept Naugatuck (4-7) scoreless over the final five innings.
“Butters is one of our top pitchers,” Kingsley said. “He throws strikes. You throw strikes and let the defense play for you. Both kids (Butterworth and Naugatuck starter Zack Royka) filled it up (the strike zone), both teams played exceptional defense, but we just got some timely hits and that was the difference in the game. It was a great high school baseball game. It was the best one I’ve been a part of this season.”
Zack Graveline and Colby Linnell each had a single, a double, an RBI, and a run for Woodland. The Hawks took a 2-1 lead in the third and added a pair of insurance runs in the fifth. The second rally was started by Zach Bedryczuk, who tripled down the right-field line and scored on a sacrifice fly. Bedryczuk singled earlier in the game.
Those three sluggers, along with the likes of Butterworth, Jason Claiborn, Nick DeLucia, Justin Marks, Matt and Mike Szturma, and others, have combined to give Kingsley a lineup that causes him problems — in a very good way.
“I have a tough time filling out the lineup,” Kingsley said. “You have a kid like Zak Graveline hitting sixth — he’s one of the better hitters on our team, but it just works there. (Tuesday) he smacked the ball to the fence to drive in a run. Zach Bedryczuk has been on fire the last four or five games. He’s approaching .400 at the plate. I have a sophomore batting in the three-hole, Jason Claiborn.
“We’re tough one through nine. We’re going to put the ball in play one through nine. We still have two sophomores and six juniors on the field, but we’ve been playing them since they were freshmen. They’re playing like seniors. They’re not afraid and they’re confident.”
The win against the Greyhounds was Woodland’s 10th in a row after a sluggish 1-2 start to the spring. During the 10-game streak, the Hawks have outscored the opposition, 96-18. Despite the success, though, Kingsley said his team has not gotten too high on itself.
“Fortunately, it’s still business,” Kingsley said of the team’s attitude. “I told them on the mound, it’s a great win but it’s a midseason game. We’re just hitting the halfway point. We’re playing well now, but this just got us a little closer to our goal.”
Woodland will host Kennedy on Wednesday before visiting Wolcott on Friday in a crucial rematch of the opening-day game that the Eagles won, 5-3. Woodland will also host Watertown in another key contest Monday, followed by a rematch against the Greyhounds next Wednesday night.
Naugy up and down: Naugatuck, meanwhile, had won two of its last three before the loss to Woodland.
The Greyhounds earned a solid 5-2 win over Oxford on Monday when Nate Deptula spun a five-hitter with three strikeouts. Tommy Ayash cracked a two-run homer, while Mark Nofri tacked on a double and two runs to propel the ‘Hounds.
Ayash and Royka tallied two hits apiece in the losing effort to Woodland.
The Greyhounds will start a four-game home stand as part of a busy week. The schedule includes games against Waterbury Career (Wednesday), Torrington (Thursday), Wolcott (Monday), and Woodland (next Wednesday).